Kansas State was trailing 21-7 at halftime against third-ranked Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday. The offense looked anemic — they had only accumulated only 1.3 yards per rush and 98 total yards.
“There was no doubt in our locker room at halftime that we could win this football game if we just came out and fixed the little mistakes that we had made in the first half,” senior quarterback Skylar Thompson said.
The Sooners went up 35-14 with 2:46 left to play in the third quarter. From there, it was all K-State. The Wildcats scored 24-unanswered points to win the game 35-31, scoring on four-straight touchdown drives and a game-sealing 50-yard field goal with 4:32 to play.
“We challenged the guys at halftime and knew we could play better on both sides of the ball, knew we could finish,” head coach Chris Klieman said. “We just needed to have some good things happen.”
The Wildcat defense was being abused by freshman quarterback Spencer Rattler to the tune of 339 yards and 4TDs through three quarters, but they came up big. The piecemeal secondary had only been practicing in that line up for three days, according to Klieman.
“In the second half when the game started to get a lot tighter, our coverage became better, our rush became better,” Klieman said. “The thing that I’m proud of is they had some resolve in that first half when we could have got blown out and then our conditioning really came into play … I thought that fourth quarter we played really good football.”
The highly-touted quarterback went 4-12 for 48 yards and a crucial game-sealing interception to senior safety Jahron McPherson, who led the team with 11 total tackles and also forced a crucial fumble.
“I dream about this all the time, for me it was just — I was so happy and happy for my team,” McPherson said. “I do everything for my team and I was just happy for all of us.”
The Wildcat defense forced Rattler out of the pocket late in the game and locked down on receivers in a way they had not all game. They sacked him three times and recorded three more quarterback hurries to shake him out of his groove.
K-State wound up turning the Sooners over forcing four turnovers and a blocked punt — their second blocked punt in as many games.
“That’s a great offense, I knew the quarterback was an exceptionally good player. We had to keep trying to pressure him to try to get him off-schedule,” Klieman said.
On offense, true freshman running back Deuce Vaughn led the Wildcats in both receiving yards (129) and rushing yards (45).
He took a chunk out of the Oklahoma defense twice. In the third quarter he took a short pass 77 yards and was tackled just short of the goal line.
“We had the big play to [Vaughn] and it kind of sparked our sideline,” Klieman said.
The Wildcats pushed the ball in a couple of plays later and Vaughn joked after the game that had he been taller than 5-foot-6 he would have gotten into the end zone.
“I got to the five-yard line, and I felt somebody on my leg, and I was like ‘Get the ball in the end zone.’ I’m only 5-foot-6, so it is kind of hard,” Vaughn said.
Then, with a little over eight minutes left in the game he broke into the open field for a 38-yard touchdown run to tie it.
“I have a lot of trust in [Vaughn], and I have since the day he got here,” Thompson said. “He’s worked hard ever since he got here, and even when he wasn’t here. Coach [Brian] Anderson always told me that man was at home watching film when he was in high school and learning our offense.”
Thompson led the Wildcats to the win with 334 passing yards and one touchdown. He added a physical 10 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
“There was a lot of stuff going on and we could have easily gave up and came out and just laid an egg today,” Thompson said. “But we didn’t. We were down three touchdowns, we had penalties, we made mistakes, but the team just kept grinding and just kept believing.”
The Wildcats beat Oklahoma twice in a row for the first time since the 1996 and 97 seasons and won their first true road game against an AP top-three team. K-State takes on Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m. next week back in Manhattan.